To get straight to the point the concept behind the debut album from the self confessed "stoner punk" outfit from Russia known as The Grand Astoria is a pretty fucked up one. In a nutshell it goes something like this; an alien going by the moniker of number 6574439 crash lands on earth via UFO and the explosion spawns a beast with the body of a man and the skull of a cow that goes by the name of Ugly Billy. Together Billy and 6574439 travel the earth using the alien's astral shifter where they encounter different people, one of whom happens to be the very deceased female poet Sylvia Plath. For people who are interested in digging deeper and trying to decode what all of this means, they can perhaps try to decipher some of the lyrics or analyze the comic book style graphics of 6574439 and Billy in the superb looking digipak style layout. However, to be honest with you I could have cared less about the concept because what I really found most impressive about this young Russian quartet was their killer ability to write some truly epic, kick ass jams!
Made up of an almost 50/50 split of instrumental and vocal tracks, after a top to bottom run through of this fuzzed out psychedelic / stoner hybrid one gets the distinct feeling that the members of The Grand Astoria aren't interested in wasting your time with a lot of your typical rock clichés. The band is armed with the dual guitar assault from Kamille Sharapodinov and Igor Suvorov, and rounded out by the punchy rhythm section of bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin. They kick off the album with the spacey instrumental "The Art of Communication with Aliens" before segueing straight into the primal, molten riffage of "Evolution Of The Planet Groove" which also features some pretty cool Johnny Rotten style vocals from Sharapodinov. The up tempo ride continues on the third track "All The Same" which breaks down into a slick sounding funky middle section before a brief, sizzling guitar solo brings the track back into a distinctly more metallic realm.
The second half of The Grand Astoria yields the biggest payoff as they venture off into uncharted instrumental waters with a couple of absolutely epic tracks. "The Man, The Sun, The Desert" is for the most part an instrumental composition replete with tons of raw sounding, jagged power chords, extended bluesy solos and enough time changes to make you seriously wonder if these guys aren't really progressive rock fans at heart. The double barreled assault continues on "Salvation Is Near" which features more great axe slinging from Sharapodinov and Suvorov as the two peel off a plethora of soaring twin harmonies in addition to some truly insane soloing over the course of this eleven minute track. After an almost forty minute barrage of unadulterated, intense and always in your face guitar work, amid the multitude of tempo shifts, the disc surprisingly concludes on a more contemplative note as the band shifts gears by relying mostly on just atmospheric guitar textures for the Plath inspired "Bell Jar (The World Is Not Okay).
For a debut effort The Grand Astoria is definitely an impressive one. The live off the floor and at times improvised feel of this record definitely adds to its overall charm. Not to mention there's an interesting psych/ stoner / progressive element running through this record that certainly makes for some intriguing results in the end.
1) The Art Of Communication With Aliens
2) Evolution Of The Planet Groove
3) All The Same
4) The Man, The Sun, The Desert
5) Salvation Is Near
6) Bell Jar (The World Is Not Okay)